What Mir Shakil-ur Rehman’s Conviction Means For The Rest of Us

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s sentence to 26 years in prison for blasphemy has shocked the world. Besides questions about misuse of blasphemy laws, global human rights groups have expressed serious concerns about the fairness of the trial and warn that it could have ‘chilling effect on freedom of expression in Pakistan’. There is another meaning, though, that is far more frightening than worrying about freedom of expression.

Mir Shakil-ur Rehman is a wealthy person. He is well connected and can hire dozens of lawyers to defend him in all the high courts, in the apex court and possibly in many of the lower courts but still he can’t face 75 FIRs, 75 criminal investigations and 75 courts. If this could happen to a person with so much influence, the tales of the injustices of our criminal justice system in the case of ordinary Pakistanis and poor fellows would have been horrific and atrocious.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman has been estimated to be the second richest man in Pakistan. He controls the nation’s largest media empire, and is as politically connected as possible. Still this was not enough to save him, and like so many others he has reportedly been forced to flee his own own country.

What hope then for the common man who has no riches to hire an army of lawyers. No media group to help make his case in the public’s eyes. No friends in the halls of power to twist arms and pressurize the powers that be. What hope could Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih, and the countless other minorities who are targeted with blasphemy charges?

For the Jang/Geo chief, the courts have declared him a blasphemer and stained him with a black mark that could threaten his very life. For the rest of us, the courts have put us on notice that our meager existence is subject to the whims and vindictiveness of our enemies.

In other words, none of us is safe.

Impeach Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui

UPDATE: The photo below has been reported to incorrectly identify Justice Shaukhat Aziz Siddiqui as the man kissing Mumtaz Qadri. According to report in DAWN, the man kissing Mumtaz Qadri is actually Advocate Yasir Shakeel. A lookalike of IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1159926

Justice Shaukat Aziz Mumtaz Qadri

Hazrat Ali (RA) famously stated that even a state based on kufr can survive, but a state based in injustice is doomed to fail. Recently we are seeing worrying signs that Pakistan is becoming a state of injustice. The most troubling of these, however, occurred only recently as Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was appointed to Islamabad High Court.

Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is an extremist ideologue who is out of touch with the Pakistani mainstream. In 2002 elections, he was awarded a ticket by extremist political party created by the ISI Muttahida Majlis–e–Amal whose leaders include Taliban supporters Samiul Haq and Munawar Hassan. Even then he was loudly rejected by the people receiving only 12,000 votes in NA-54.

In 2011, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui openly celebrated the self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Qadri and was photographed kissing the killer in the streets. Let us not forget that Mumtaz Qadri confessed to the cold blooded murder of Salmaan Taseer, was convicted by the court, and sentenced to death as a cold blooded killer. Now the people are expected to walk into the Islamabad High Court and still believe that it is a place where the rule of law is respected?

There is a solution to this crisis. Article 209 of the Constitution allows Judges of a High Court to be removed if he is ‘incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct’. Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s misconduct is his public support for a self-confessed murderer, an act which makes him incapable of performing the duties of his office which includes in its oath the sworn duty to ‘in all circumstances…do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will’.

Through his public actions, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui has proven himself incapable of performing the duties of a High Court Judge and should be removed from office immediately. Only then can we have faith that the Courts are actually Halls of Justice.

Rashid Rehman’s Murder and the Banality of Evil

The most profound thing about the response to the murder of Rashid Rehman has been how muted it has been. The UN has condemned the brutal act, but the government has ignored international outcry demanding an investigation. The fact is, such an investigation does not serve the purposes of the national or Punjab governments. Rashid Rehman was killed for defending those accused of blasphemy, and that is not a particularly powerful political group. Religious extremists, however, are, and the Sharifs know it. This willingness to play realpolitik with those who believe they are justified to kill those who disagree with them has been the Nawaz Sharif’s undoing in the past, but it threatens to undo much more than just the current government.

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What Justice System Says About Our Society

Only 4% terrorism suspects convicted

The reality about how so-called justice operates in Pakistan was put in stark relief this week. Courts gave decisions in three different cases, and the decisions speak volumes not only about law and order, but our society more generally as well.

Thursday, the Lahore High Court granted bail to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq who is facing charges of fanning sectarianism through giving hate speeches. Malik Ishaq must be quickly approaching the world’s record for being charged and released in terrorism cases. Actually, though, it’s not just Malik Ishaq but most terrorists never get convicted.

While Malik Ishaq is repeatedly given the benefit of presumption of innocence, another Pakistani is facing a very different judiciary. An appellate forum under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) has ordered a new case against Shakil Afridi, the doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden, for alleged involvement in anti-state activities and collusion with foreign intelligence. This is not an excuse for Shakil Afridi or a plea for innocence, only an observation that it accusations of cooperating with Americans against terrorism seem to be treated much more seriously than accusations of cooperating with terrorists against Pakistanis.

And then there is the third group in this trio of justice systems. According to media reports, as SC was prepared to close the 35 missing persons case, it was revealed that no FIR has even been filed against the accused Army men.

To the Court’s credit, it is taking the case seriously and is making what appear to be good faith efforts to see justice prevail. However, the Court also has to work within the boundaries of law, which means that it relies on other officials to carry out their own duties, who in this case appear to dragging their feet.

And let us not forget that which some would certainly like us to quickly forget, which is the much rubbished New York Times report that ISI had a secret, unaccountable desk dedicated to Osama bin Laden during his stay here. This is a serious allegation made in one of the most prominent of the world’s newspapers. The last time such unsourced allegations were made, judicial commissions were constituted, officials were placed under house arrest and their movements restricted, and the nation found itself in an uproar. In this case, though, the article was dismissed almost unanimously within hours. Gen Pasha will not be called home from Dubai. No judicial commission or investigation necessary.

But even if the ISI is completely innocent, which is, of course, a possibility that must be given all due consideration, the article does name others and mentions specific evidence against them:

The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from Bin Laden’s house during the raid suggested otherwise, however. It revealed regular correspondence between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban.

Will the DG-ISI secretly meet with the author in a London hotel room to view the evidence against Hafiz Saeed and Mullah Omar? Will the alleged correspondence be ‘leaked’ to the national media so that the public can decide for itself about the facts of the case?

So here we have one system of justice with at least three different types of justice: The jihadi terrorist who cannot be convicted, the accused foreign agent who can never be acquitted, and the Army men who can never be properly brought to book due in the first place. We can place the blame on the judiciary, but isn’t what we’re seeing actually a reflection of something much more familiar?

 

Will trail of blood lead to missing persons?

Long march for missing Baloch

The miserable situation our nation faces is readily apparent in the sad fact that a debate emerged about who between our soldiers and the terrorists attacking us is and is not worthy of the title ‘shaheed’. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar termed the debate as ‘poisonous‘, but the truth is it is but a symptom of the poison that has already been unleashed in our veins. With due respect to the Minister, we cannot find a cure if we continue to ignore the sickness.

One person willing to examine the patient in an objective light is respected professor of international law Waris Husain. In a piece yesterday, he makes the point that ‘it becomes harder to assign legitimacy and bestow the honour of martyrdom to criminals, if/when the state represents and respects the rule of law for all its citizens’. In his piece, he refers to secret support for US drones, but on Twitter he expanded on this and included another important example: missing persons. Continue reading